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Needham the latest to crack down on student drinking

Posted November 7, 2008 04:22 PM

Needham High School students have been holding house parties involving alcohol, according to Paul Richards, the school’s principal, who sent an email reminder to parents Friday morning that student athletes can be suspended from play for 25 percent of their season if they are caught drinking.

“It’s got us gravely concerned,” he said in a phone interview.

Although he said he knew of only two house parties since school started, such gatherings, usually with alcohol served, are regular occurrences in area communities.

“I think most principals would say that house parties on the weekend are fairly regular in their towns,” said Richards. “It’s the social scene.”

Thanks to cell phones, small gatherings often mushroom into large parties as friends find out a classmate’s parents aren’t home, he said.

The email to Needham parents was not in response to recent Newton car accidents involving students who, according to Newton police, had either been drinking or were coming from house parties. Richards said he had not heard about those incidents.

“The principals in the area have talked a lot about drinking,” said Richards. “This fall for whatever reason it started when Lincoln-Sudbury and some other schools took a hard approach toward their Friday night football games.”

He was referring to the first football game of the season at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in September, when one student was hospitalized and several were cited by police or suspended for drinking.

Richards said a student can be suspended for drinking on school property, but with house parties, there is very little the school can do – unless the student is an athlete. Then, a student can lose 25 percent of their season for a first offense, said Richards, even without an arrest. A verbal report from a police officer that a student was drinking is enough for an athletic suspension, he said.

“We have tried as a school to become more proactive and more aware of what’s going on,” said Richards.

-- By Lisa Kocian

Below is the text of the email that Richards sent to parents this morning.

Dear Parents,

We continue to hear reports during these first two months of school that the Needham police are responding to house parties that involve a large number of Needham High students. Typically, large quantities of alcohol are found on the premises and it is evident that many of the students have been drinking. For those who stayed on the premises, students have been turned over to their parents. Others have been charged.

In some of these cases, a small gathering appeared to quickly get out of hand. At times, we have received telephone reports from neighbors that some of our students were at parties and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, and were driving as well.

If student-athletes are cited by the police at a weekend party, there is a school sanction through the MIAA which we administer (loss of 25% of the season for first offenses). More importantly, we do not condone this sort of behavior for safety reasons and spend considerable time working with students to help them make good decisions during adolescence. Since many of the students routinely discuss the party scenes at school, there is an excellent opportunity for you to have a conversation at home about your own expectations of them and your concerns for their personal safety. It also serves as a reminder that students may face serious legal consequences in addition to possible suspension from school and after school activities when they consume alcohol illegally.

Deb Engler, Needham's Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coordinator, included the following "keys to prevention" in last year's Student-Parent Directory:
1. Be clear about your expectations.
2. Take a firm stand against the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
3. Teach resistance skills.
4. Reach out to other parents.
5. Provide help.
6. Be proactive.

Thank you for your continued collaboration and support as we try to address this very important issue facing our students.

Paul Richards
Principal, Needham High School

7 comments so far...
  1. Why only 25%? Toss them off the team for the rest of the year and 2 weeks expulsion. You will only have to do that 1 or 2 times and the message will be delivered loud and clear.

    Posted by Riocard November 7, 08 11:35 PM
  1. You call this cracking down?? If you want to see CRACKING DOWN take a look at Concord-Carlisle: If the AD has credible evidence of any kind that an athlete was drinking he/she is done for the season (THE WHOLE SEASON) and he/she cannot be a captain of the team that year or next. And this isn't new either, it's been this way for at least 10 years. I don't agree with that policy mind you, but that's the way it is.

    Interestingly I am pretty sure these extra punishments don't apply to people in the school band, theater club, or any other extra curricular club, but that's for another day...

    Posted by Dan CC '04 November 8, 08 11:32 AM
  1. you have GOT to be kidding. these parties have been going on for DECADES. talk about denial! the parents, not all, but mostly don't give a darn. i was a needham parent and found pics of local kids smoking crack and called their parents. there were eight boys invoved and only ONE set of parents even showed up to see the pics. and yes, one of them was mine.
    look at facebook! my kids show me pics of every kid in town boozing it up at MANY houses around town. i recognize the furniture, i have been in those homes for tea and book clubs many times! give me a break.

    Posted by Betty November 8, 08 08:52 PM
  1. Just tell them they can't 'walk' at graduation with their class when it graduates and enforce it. Have them, along with their parent(s)/guardian(s), sign an affadavit with the stipulation that if they don't sign, they don't play. This could also be done with any school sponsored activity such as band, drama, etc. Have other schools sign on in case they transfer for any of a variety of reasons. Watch the problem noticeably subside once this is enforced come May/June. The next school year will not be perfect, but I would be willing to bet that there would be fewer instances.

    Posted by George November 8, 08 10:05 PM
  1. And people do not think these these kids see the hypocrisy as they watch the adults in their communities skirt the laws and then turn to them and admonish them?
    I recently attended a Senior Sports Dinner in which the Adults could order drinks after the dinner during the "meet and greet" and there stood the Athletic Director with his Rum and Coke explaining to the kids about keeping their nose to the grindstone during the college years.....

    Posted by Joe November 9, 08 09:07 AM
  1. ok people, why do we need the schools to parent. Does your boss suspend you from work if you are breaking the law ? And if you are going to make policies like this it should go for everyone not just the precious football team. Parents need to stop trying to be friends with their kids and parent. Call the parents of their friends, find out if they will be home. Get a spine. and stop giving these kids every single thing.
    and Joe..adults are not breaking the law when they drink!

    Posted by ndmmom November 9, 08 12:16 PM
  1. To ndmmom (from another Needham HS parent:)
    You're right that parents should do their job. It's obvious that not enough of them do enough.
    There is a longstanding duty of school leaders to act "in loco parentis" - even in high school. We should be thankful we have people like Paul Richards who aren't afraid of invoking that principle. I surely hope his successor takes the holistic approach to the job that Paul has so clearly demonstrated.

    Posted by Frank57 November 9, 08 01:52 PM
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